Sen. Mitt Romney praised Amy Coney Barrett on Monday while again raising his concern about the declining trust in government, including instances in which he says President Donald Trump added to that “malady.”

In a Senate floor speech ahead of Barrett’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Utah Republican said a democratic republic is highly dependent on its institutions, including churches, schools, governments at all levels, the press, corporations and the justice system.

“Absent public confidence in these institutions, a democratic republic will not thrive or perhaps endure,” he said.

What you need to know about Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court
The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett puts the spotlight on faith lived out loud

The Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Barrett on Monday after some 30 hours of debate. Barrett, 48, fills the vacancy of the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month. 

Romney and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, voted with the majority. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican senator to cross party lines and vote with the Democrats after having expressed concerns that it’s too close to Election Day to consider a nominee to the high court.

Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney | Associated Press

“This is a momentous day for America,” Trump said at a primetime swearing-in event on the South Lawn at the White House after the vote.

Justice Clarence Thomas administered the Constitutional Oath to Barrett before a crowd of about 200. Barrett will be able to participate in the court after taking the judicial oath administered by Chief Justice John Roberts in a private ceremony at the court Tuesday.

Barrett told those gathered that she learned through the “rigorous confirmation” that “it is the job of a judge to resist her policy preferences.” She vowed, “I will do my job without any fear or favor.”

Romney described Barrett as intelligent and academically astute. She has a record of sound opinions and temperament on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, he said, and her character and integrity will be essential to the nation as the confidence of the court is in the balance.

Lee called the confirmation a “huge win” for the American people.

One of the GOP senators leading the push to confirm Barrett, Lee said she understands that lawmaking by unelected judges is inconsistent with the Constitution and usurps the prerogatives of the legislative branch.

“She will be a justice whose approach to the law — abstaining from policymaking from the bench, deferring to Congress and the states — will ease divisions and allow the federalism envisioned by our founders to serve the needs of our pluralistic society,” he said.

In his speech, Romney said he’s concerned about the division and the contempt for others that is growing among many Americans.

“The causes of this malady are many and varied but one to which I draw attention is the declining trust held by the citizenry in our many institutions,” he said.

While the Supreme Court enjoys a great deal of respect among Americans, the courts might be among the few institutions not seeing a collapse in public trust, Romney said.

Churches have been diminished by scandal and by politicization, he said. Trust in law enforcement has fallen because the actions of some officers have endangered people’s lives, particularly in communities of color, he said. The FBI and the intelligence community have withered from attack by both parties, “though admittedly my party has been the more vocal.”

President Donald Trump smiles as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas concludes administering the Constitutional Oath to Amy Coney Barrett on the South Lawn of the White House White House in Washington Monday night. Barrett was confirmed to be a Supreme Court justice by the Senate earlier in the evening. Holding the Bible is Barrett’s husband, Jesse Barrett. | Alex Brandon, Associated Press

“What a message it sends when the president accepts the word of the Russian president rather than conclusions of our intelligence agencies,” Romney said.

A free press, he said, is constitutionally protected and critical to the preservation of democracy.

“Here, too, charges of fake news and claims the press as the enemy of the people, worsened by the media’s constant amplification of divisiveness, have so diminished the trust many Americans have in the media that they believe bizarre, anonymous conspiracy theories on the internet,” Romney said.

Earlier this month, Romney said Trump’s refusal to condemn QAnon, a right-wing conspiracy theory, during an NBC town hall was indicative of an “alarming pattern” in politics.

“Rather than expel the rabid fringes and the extremes, they have coddled or adopted them, eagerly trading their principles for the hope of electoral victories. As the parties rush down a rabbit hole, they may be opening a door to a political movement that could eventually eclipse them both,” he tweeted.

Last week, Romney said that he had voted in this year’s election but not for Trump. He would not say who got his vote for president.

Also, Romney this month called for political leaders to tone down hateful rhetoric. He said politics has moved away from spirited debate to a “vile, vituperative, hate-filled morass” that is unbecoming of a free country.

Now more than ever, he said in his floor speech, the Supreme Court must retain the trust of the country because it might be the only institution in which a majority of Americans have confidence.

“That’s why Judge Barrett’s integrity, wisdom and commitment to the rule of law is so important,” Romney said. “She will be critical to the public’s perception of the legitimacy of the court.”

Romney said institutional legitimacy should be given even greater weight in the Supreme Court’s deliberations because so many other institutions are diminished and under attack. He said that would be particularly true if the court were called on to decide the outcome of a presidential election.

It is of paramount importance that such a decision follows the law and the Constitution wherever it leads regardless of the outcome and thereby be “beyond reproach, clearly nonpolitical and preferably unanimous,” he said.

Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement that Barrett is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.

“Her background informs us that she will be a great jurist. She has indicated that her decisions will be guided only by the law, and not by her personal political views. That is a standard every jurist should uphold, and something that both Democrats and Republicans should applaud,” he said.

During Monday evening’s vote, the Republican senators, most wearing masks, sat in their seats, as is tradition for landmark votes, and applauded the outcome, the Associated Press reported. Democratic senators were not present, heeding Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer’s advice not to linger in the chamber after voting because of concerns over COVID-19 exposure.

Democrats argued for weeks that the vote was being improperly rushed and insisted during an all-night Sunday session it should be up to the winner of the Nov. 3 election to name the nominee.

Contributing: Associated Press